Clockwork Princess (Page 7)

Clockwork Princess(7)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Gabriel glanced at his own reflection. His gear was torn at the neck, and there was a red mark on his jaw where a long graze was in the process of healing. There was blood all over his gear-Your own blood, or your father’s blood?

He pushed the thought away quickly. It was odd, he thought, how he was the one who looked like their mother, Barbara. She had been tall and inclined toward slenderness, with curling brown hair and eyes he remembered as the purest green, like the grass that sloped down toward the river behind the house. Gideon looked like their father: broad and stocky, with eyes more gray than green. Which was ironic, because Gabriel was the one who had inherited their father’s temperament: headstrong and quick to anger, slow to forgive. Gideon and Barbara were more peacemakers, quiet and steady, faithful in their beliefs. They were both much more like-

Charlotte Branwell came in through the open door of the drawing room in a loose dress, her eyes as bright as a small bird’s. Whenever Gabriel saw her, he was struck by how small she was, how he towered over her. What had Consul Wayland been thinking, giving this tiny creature power over the Institute and all the Shadowhunters of London?

"Gabriel." She inclined her head. "Your brother says you were not hurt."

"I’m quite all right," he said shortly, and immediately knew he had sounded rude. He had not meant to, precisely. His father had drilled into his head for years now what a fool Charlotte was, how useless and easily influenced, and though he knew his brother disagreed-disagreed enough to come and live in this place and leave his family behind-it was a hard lesson to put aside. "I thought you would be with Carstairs."

"Brother Enoch has arrived, with another of the Silent Brothers. They have banned us all from Jem’s room. Will is pacing outside in the corridor like a caged panther. Poor boy." Charlotte looked at Gabriel briefly before walking to the fireplace. In her glance was a look of keen intelligence, quickly masked by the lowering of her eyelashes. "But enough of that. I understand that your sister has already been delivered to the Blackthorns’ residence in Kensington," she said. "Is there someone you would like me to send a message to for you?"

"A-message?"

She paused before the fireplace, clasping her hands behind her back. "You need to go somewhere, Gabriel, unless you want me to turn you out of doors with only the key of the streets to your name."

Turn me out of doors? Was this horrible woman actually throwing him out of the Institute? He thought of what his father had always told him: The Fairchilds don’t care about anyone but themselves and the Law. "I-the house in Pimlico-"

"The Consul will shortly be informed of all that transpired at Lightwood House," said Charlotte. "Both of your family’s London residences will be confiscated in the name of the Clave, at least until they can be searched and it can be determined that your father left nothing behind that could provide the Council with clues."

"Clues to what?"

"To your father’s plans," she said, unfazed. "To his connection to Mortmain, his knowledge of Mortmain’s plans. To the Infernal Devices."

"I’ve never even heard of the bloody Infernal Devices," Gabriel protested, and then blushed. He had sworn, and in front of a lady. Not that Charlotte was quite like any other lady.

"I believe you," she said. "I don’t know if Consul Wayland will, but that is your lookout. If you will give me an address-"

"I haven’t got one," Gabriel said, in desperation. "Where do you think I could go?"

She just looked at him, one eyebrow raised.

"I want to stay with my brother," he said finally, aware that he sounded petulant and angry, but not quite sure what to do about it.

"But your brother lives here," she said. "And you have made your feelings about the Institute and about my claim to it very clear. Jem told me what you believe. That my father drove your uncle to suicide. It isn’t true, you know, but I don’t expect you to believe me. It does leave me wondering, however, why you would wish to remain here."

"The Institute is a refuge."

"Was your father planning on running it as a refuge?"

"I don’t know! I don’t know what his plans are-what they were!"

"Then why did you go along with them?" Her voice was soft but merciless.

"Because he was my father!" Gabriel shouted. He spun away from Charlotte, his breath becoming ragged in his throat. Only barely aware of what he was doing, he wrapped his arms around himself, hugging his own body tight, as if he could keep himself from coming undone.

Memories of the past few weeks, memories that Gabriel had been doing his best to press back into the very recesses of his mind, threatened to burst out into the light: weeks in the house after the servants had been sent away, hearing the noises coming from the upstairs rooms, screams in the night, blood on the stairs in the morning, Father shouting gibberish from behind the locked library door, as if he could no longer form words in English …

"If you are going to throw me out on the street," Gabriel said, with a sort of terrible desperation, "then do it now. I do not want to think I have got a home when I have not. I do not want to think I am going to see my brother again if I am not going to."

"You think he would not go after you? Find you wherever you were?"

"I think he has proved who he cares for most," said Gabriel, "and it is not me." He slowly straightened, loosing his grip on himself. "Send me away or let me stay. I will not beg you."

Charlotte sighed. "You will not have to," she said. "Never before have I sent away anyone who told me they had nowhere else to go, and I will not start now. I will ask of you only one thing. To allow someone to live in the Institute, in the very heart of the Enclave, is to place my trust in their good intentions. Do not make me regret that I have trusted you, Gabriel Lightwood."

The shadows had lengthened in the library. Tessa sat in a pool of light by one of the windows, beside a shaded blue lamp. A book had been open on her lap for several hours, but she had not been able to concentrate on it. Her eyes skidded over the words on the pages without absorbing them, and she would often find that she was pausing to try to remember who a character was, or why they were doing what they were doing.

She was in the middle of beginning chapter five yet again when the creak of a floorboard alerted her, and she looked up to find Will standing before her, damp-haired, his gloves in his hands.

"Will." Tessa set the book down on the windowsill beside her. "You startled me."

"I didn’t mean to interrupt," he said in a low voice. "If you are reading …" He began to turn away.

"I am not," she said, and he stopped, looking back at her over his shoulder. "I cannot lose myself in words now. I cannot calm the distraction of my mind."

"Nor I," he said, turning fully now. He was no longer spattered in blood. His clothes were clean, and his skin mostly unmarked, though she could see the pinkish-white lines of grazes on his neck, disappearing down into the collar of his shirt, healing as the iratzes did their work.

"Is there news of my-is there news of Jem?"

"There is no change," he said, though she had guessed as much. If there had been a change, Will would not have been here. "The Brothers will still not let anyone into the room, not even Charlotte.

"And why are you here?" he went on. "Sitting in the dark?"

"Benedict wrote on the wall of his study," she said in a low voice. "Before he turned into that creature, I imagine, or while it was happening. I don’t know. ‘The Infernal Devices are without pity. The Infernal Devices are without regret. The Infernal Devices are without number. The Infernal Devices will never stop coming.’"

"The infernal devices? I assume he means Mortmain’s clockwork creatures. Not that we have seen any of them for months."

"That does not mean they will not come back," Tessa said. She looked down at the library table, its scratched veneer. How often Will and Jem must have sat here together, studying, carving their initials, as bored schoolboys did, into the table’s surface. "I am a danger to you here."

"Tessa, we have talked about this before. You are not the danger. You are the thing Mortmain wants, yes, but if you were not here and protected, he could get you easily, and to what destruction would he turn your powers? We don’t know-only that he wants you for something, and that it is to our advantage to keep you from him. It is not selflessness. We Shadowhunters are not selfless."

She looked up at that. "I think you are very selfless." At his noise of disagreement she said: "Surely you must know that what you do is exemplary. There is a coldness to the Clave, it is true. We are dust and shadows. But you are like the heroes of ancient times, like Achilles and Jason."

"Achilles was murdered with a poisoned arrow, and Jason died alone, killed by his own rotting ship. Such is the fate of heroes; the Angel knows why anyone would want to be one."

Tessa looked at him. There were shadows under his blue eyes, she saw, and his fingers were worrying at the material of his cuffs, thoughtlessly, as if he were not aware he was doing it. Months, she thought. Months since they had been alone together for more than a moment. They’d had only accidental encounters in hallways, in the courtyard, awkwardly exchanged pleasantries. She had missed his jokes, the books he had lent her, the flashes of laughter in his gaze. Caught in the memory of the easier Will of an earlier time, she spoke without thinking:

"I cannot stop recollecting something you told me once," she said.

He looked at her in surprise. "Yes? And what is that?"

"That sometimes when you cannot decide what to do, you pretend you are a character in a book, because it is easier to decide what they would do."

"I am," Will said, "perhaps, not someone to take advice from if you are seeking happiness."

"Not happiness. Not exactly. I want to help-to do good-" She broke off and sighed. "And I have turned to many books, but if there is guidance in them, I have not found it. You said you were Sydney Carton-"

Will made a sound, and sank down onto a chair on the opposite side of the table from her. His lashes were lowered, veiling his eyes.

"And I suppose I know what that makes the rest of us," she said. "But I do not want to be Lucie Manette, for she did nothing to save Charles; she let Sydney do it all. And she was cruel to him."

"To Charles?" Will said.

"To Sydney," Tessa said. "He wanted to be a better man, but she would not help him."

"She could not. She was engaged to Charles Darney."

"Still, it was not kind," Tessa said.

Will threw himself out of his chair as quickly as he had thrown himself into it. He leaned forward, his hands on the table. His eyes were very blue in the blue light of the lamp. "Sometimes one must choose whether to be kind or honorable," he said. "Sometimes one cannot be both."

"Which is better?" Tessa whispered.

Will’s mouth twisted with bitter humor. "I suppose it depends on the book."

Tessa craned her head back to look at him. "You know that feeling," she said, "when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing close around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage, and you cannot let go or turn the course aside." His blue eyes were dark with understanding-of course Will would understand-and she hurried on. "I feel now as if the same is happening, only not to characters on a page but to my own beloved friends and companions. I do not want to sit by while tragedy comes for us. I would turn it aside, only I struggle to discover how that might be done."

"You fear for Jem," Will said.

"Yes," she said. "And I fear for you, too."

"No," Will said hoarsely. "Don’t waste that on me, Tess."

Before she could reply, the library door opened. It was Charlotte, looking drained and exhausted. Will turned toward her quickly.

"How is Jem?" he said.

"He is awake and talking," said Charlotte. "He has had some of the yin fen, and the Silent Brothers have been able to make his condition stable, and to stop the internal bleeding."

At the mention of internal bleeding, Will looked as if he were going to throw up; Tessa imagined she looked much the same.

"He can have a visitor," Charlotte went on. "In fact, he has requested it."

Will and Tessa exchanged a quick glance. Tessa knew what both were thinking: Which of them should the visitor be? Tessa was Jem’s fiancee, but Will was his parabatai, which was sacred in and of itself. Will had begun to step back, when Charlotte spoke again, sounding tired down to her bones:

"He has asked for you, Will."

Will looked startled. He darted a glance at Tessa. "I-"

Tessa could not deny the little burst of surprise and almost-jealousy she had felt behind her rib cage at Charlotte’s words, but she pushed it down ruthlessly. She loved Jem enough to want whatever he wanted for himself, and he always had his reasons. "You go," she said gently. "Of course he would want to see you."

Will began to move toward the door to join Charlotte. Halfway there he turned back and crossed the room to Tessa. "Tessa," he said, "while I am with Jem, would you do something for me?"

Tessa looked up and swallowed. He was too close, too close: All the lines, shapes, angles of Will filled her field of vision as the sound of his voice filled her ears. "Yes, certainly," she said. "What is it?"

To: Edmund and Linette Herondale

Ravenscar Manor

West Riding, Yorkshire

Dear Dad and Mam,

I know it was cowardly of me to have left as I did, in the early morning before you woke, with only a note to explain my absence. I could not bear to face you, knowing what I had decided to do, and that I was the worst of disobedient daughters.